Bill Viola - The Talking Drum
The Vinyl Factory / Brewer St Carpark, London
The Vinyl Factory and Blain|Southern presents The Talking Drum, 1979, and Hornpipes, 1979–82 that comprises the early works of Bill Viola. Seeking to explore the resonances of an empty swimming pool, the latter works existing as sonic manifestations embody the abstract however apparent for one to understand. I enter the space situated lower level, underground of Brewer Street Car park.
The work explores and presents the logical development of Viola’s early experiments with audio, with at attempt to create a physical presence, an entity, a material thing that defines the space profoundly (just as much as darkness) seeking to define the physical effects of audio on audiences and surrounding spaces. The exploration and manipulation of physical sound waves through the addition of electronic playback and modulation allows the space to be entirely fulfilled by the resonances of an empty swimming pool.
Behind the wall containing text, the latter to be read before entering the space in order to gain an insight to the exhibition, (room / space … what are we to enter? … ) is something generating noise. Something rather mechanical yet erie, and I can faintly hear the sounds of a drone, a constant static hum. As I enter the darkened gallery space, I begin to picture an essence, a view I thought may be visible, sculptures, instruments, however neither of the latter visible. Instantly I observe a bench situated in the centre of the space, accompanied by low lighting. I seek to distinguish the space however it takes me several attempts for my eyes to adjust within this disorientation. The room is of a larger scale than my initial thought, and I remind myself that I am underground, standing at the doorway of an empty parking level.
As I begin to emerge, I give this experience to myself which allows me to become the narrative.
At the fundamental point of entrance, one is unaware when suddenly all that is begins to evolve.
Will I be greeted by a reconstruction of a swimming pool, a drum, a hornpipe? I am not entirely sure. Totally abstract in form, I could not directly distinguish what I was hearing. I recall prolonged hornpipes but the drum was not within my hearing. The projection of the resonance of an empty swimming pool creates a secondary resonance, a resonance still existing inside the given space however at an underground, tunnel like level, with sounds manipulating the space, the latter forming a presence of its own which allows my experience to evolve gradually. Wherever I position myself, each experience becomes individual as the sounds are presented through a static 6 - channel speaker system, above head height. Distancing myself from the area, my presence becomes an absence, and I become the outside listener, however once immersed in the space, I am in conversation with the sounds - body in conversation with the latter, reminding me of the resonance experience of an underground subway, or an emerging train approaching the platform. The latter penetrates the walls resonating through my chest.
The persistence of the resonances allows the particular space to form a reverberation of sounds across the room after the sounds are produced. They're played back and forth and swim in directions I cannot control. They begin to fill the corners and passageways of the enclosed, allowing a number of echoes to build up and gradually decay space, once the slightly humid air has absorbed the latter.
The exhibition is presented as an art of sounds governed by time as music relies on time in order to exist, music becomes an art of time — a frozen time with a possibility for change, as without time the structure of the piece would be out of form, an open structure allowing one to interpret time, even though without structure, time is endless. Through sound decay, an innovative experience is created. An orchestration of events of ambient sounds that are profoundly musical enables the space and sound to change over time simultaneously. However, the lack of structure within the piece leaves the duration open to interpretation. Time then becomes lost and only the senses are left to guess. As a result, the piece ends once the lister exists the sound journey without physically leaving the room. Sound therefore becomes a spatial and architectural phenomenon that aims to bring forward a consciousness in order expand our level of awareness.
I still cannot hear the drum. Is the Talking Drum a symbol of Non - Western influence, existing metaphorically as a form of communication - the call and response affect? Instantly reminding me of the American Minimalists of the 1950’s and 60’s, La Monte Young for example with Composition No.7 1960, with the instructions To be held for a very long time. The latter instantly forces my mind to The Second Dream of the High-Tension Line Stepdown Transformer, and the prolonging note of a trumpet. The reason I mention Young, is apart in relation to Viola, as Viola lived in Japan, where he studied with Zen priest Daien Tanaka (Young also interested in Zen, as a result sustaining a huge influence on his music) which is clear within the sounds portrayed, a manipulation of time, portraying a language (music of a poet) suggests a reference to his early compositions:
Playing on rhythm, repetition and series, he works as a composer. As in music, his compositional elements are cycles, dichotomies or harmonic opposites - foreground background, time/timelessness, active space/empty space, sound/silence, stillness/motion.As in music, silence and in activity areas important as sound and activity.And, as in music, duration is the most important element of all:rhythm and timing create the narrative.There's perceptual timing and conceptual timing; if percept is to become concept, time must move slowly."Duration is to consciousness," he has said, "as light is to the eye."Sustained duration forces thinking instead of only seeing; it’s a metaphor for contemplation.
(Youngblood, Gene, METAPHYSICAL STRUCTURALISM The Videotapes of Bill Viola, Santa Monica: Voyager Press, 1986)
What normally is regarded as background noise is for Viola becomes a foreground figure or object, a positive space as appose to a negative space.
ARTIST AS CURATOR
GRIFFIN GALLERY, LONDON
Where is paint born? What does paint do? What if you acknowledge and respond to a space once the space is already occupied? …
Several questions became the centre of discussion when we explored Pool, (an exhibition of work alluding to the theme of landscape) which opened up a continuous discourse when considering the Artist as Curator. A well as the show literally being curated by artists, could the Curators also be considered as Artists here, as the space and show as a whole had been carefully designed to encourage public engagement and interaction?
Curated by artists Rebecca Byrne and Liz Elton, and presented by Griffin Gallery, Pool brings together the works of 13 artists who have expanded the field of painting. Through the device of a constructed landscape, all existing together within one space, a new visual setting is formed. We as the viewers become part of that landscape that is Pool.
The interior space, the spacial language of painting, and the space outside the painting in which we inhabit, allows us to occupy and to draw questions and conclusions based on the constant flow of interaction over time. The works connect with one and other, be that in a sculptural way (such as Sarah Kate Wilson’s The Great British Summer and Juliette Losq’s Efflorescence and the inclusion of audience interaction with the objects such as Vanessa-Maurice Williams’ Portal/Tunel), or by performance. As our presence disrupts the landscape, our engagement allows us to perform within the space that we occupy, entering and exiting the never drying flow of paint.
Occupying a space and following an invisible path through a flowing of objects and connections within the show, suggest that the gestures in painting are more than a paint brush to hand relation. Responses, conversations and ideas swim within and around the gallery in order for one to appreciate painting and the form in which it wants to take. The construct of a garden acts as a frame itself, the ideas embedded within individual pieces continuously move in and outside their own boundaries.
Beginning outside the gallery, the show is presented as an immersive experience. As we enter the garden and continue through the intimate assembled tent, Portal/Tunel , there is a mystery as to what will be revealed on the other side – a colourful game that opens our visual surroundings, continuously recycling a landscape and developing a soundscape.
Pool allows the paint to pour within and throughout the volumes of gravity. The space between two things; the time consuming physical act of painting, and the claiming of a space encourages a painting to fight for attention. Only then do we allow the bodily presence to travel through and within it, pooling the surface of the never static space.
26.03.15Review: Still Now Is Then Forever
Written by Leanne Cunningham
Hanover Project presents Still Now Is Then Forever, an exhibition comprising works by artists Andy Broadey and Frances Richardson. As someone who is interested in any work that investigates the ideology surrounding aspects of time and space, I was intrigued by this exhibition.
Entering Hanover Project, I am greeted by the immersive Still (2014), aligned together to form the visual elements of a timeline. Left unmaintained since the fall of Bulgarian communism in 1989, the Budludzha Monument is the central element of Broadey’s photographs. The monument occupies the top of a hill in central Stara Planina Bulgaria, and was occupied by Broadey and his two Russian soviet cameras for twenty-four hours whilst he made this work. The two cameras are captured by each other, circumnavigating the corridors of the Budludzha Monument, which is the biggest ideological building in Bulgaria. Built as a marker to the creation of the Bulgarian socialist movement with government support and donations, the building was made and constructed by the Bulgarian army and volunteers. Due to the political changes of 1989, the state of the monument has since deteriorated. Mosaic portraits of the president momentarily destroyed and will soon no longer be. Deterioration and abandonment is a consistent theme that runs within and throughout Still.
A frozen aspect of what once was becomes more than just a photograph. It exists as a silent page of visuality that metaphorically speaks of a darkened past whilst seemingly presenting an invitation. A feeling of sedateness enforces a longing to stand inside the Budludzha Monument and stare out into the light that Broadey fears to see. As a result, this prompts me to the ideas behind the aspect of light within, the outside world. Is the latter a form of hope for Broadey and the viewers? Does the brightness aim to create a sense of ease? It reflects onto me as an unknown element.
In response to Broadey’s Still, Frances Richardson presents Now is then forever (2015), a sculptural intervention that engages directly with Hanover Project. The gallery is a purpose built extension on the side of a 1930’s renovated factory, which is now a building belonging to Fine Art at The University of Central Lancashire. Shattered broken windows made from MDF and aligned with copper sit comfortably within the space adjacent to Broadey’s series Still. Facing one and other, a visual and political debate seems to exist within the space. Slightly obscured views of the outside word and real life in Richardson’s piece result in the temporal aspects of what the space may possibly look like in the future, whilst simultaneously imagining visions of the past. Do Richardson’s installations correspond to the iron bars and doors that seal the Budludzha Monument, fundamentally leaving visitors to enter at their own risk?
The context of this urban environment consisting architecture, space and place within Hanover opens up a visual idea of Still existing as a silent decaying facade of Richardson’s sculptures. The abandoned ideology of the two pieces existing within the one space beautifully forms Still Now Is Then Forever, with the latter existing as an experience of time process that plays with temporality as what is visible is what is present. Yet this makes me question what is being lost and what is to be gained? A question that longs to be answered as a photograph of the latter would not provide the same effect as to what can be seen and what can be explored within real time. Being present within the space alongside the work results for one to witness what you see is what you get , further allowing one to explore every possible detail with a sense of true space and perception. The photographs become an element of the past that was once a presence explored by Broadey, which then leaves us with a challenging perception. Both, the urban and the new form a desolate condition – a feeling of emptiness.
 Frances Richardson, Still Now Is Then Forever introduction, Preston, UK (2015)
Words by Leanne Cunningham
the Bluecoat presents Listening, a sight and sound exhibition curated by Sam Belinfante, which interrogates the act of listening itself, rather than merely its aural objects. Durational works (of which there are several) allow the listener / audience to attend to a piece for their own desired length of time, with ‘techniques from the orchestra [used] to orchestrate the exhibition in terms of time and space’ (Sam Belinfante – opening speech).
From attending the preview night and re-visiting a second time, my experiences of the exhibition differed. Allowing intimacy and detail, the exhibition is metaphorically and physically moving – pulling one from room to room, allowing the ear to control your next move; inviting and intriguing senses usually ignored in such an environment. The first time around, the audio aspects of the show become drowned out with the sounds of real time, as the space becomes occupied by movement and life, with conversation filling each and every room. Yet the idea of the exhibition is to listen: I try to listen carefully.
I am greeted by the beautifully haunting choir of Song; a 6 hour long film by Ragnar Kjartansson which offers a repetitive and somewhat eerie contribution to the exhibition. This durational piece imbues the listener with a sense of loss; a loss of time awareness when present in the space.
As I continue to listen, the sound of a motorboat penetrates my ears. Feeling the drone and rattle through my body, sea movement creates a flowing of excitement along with the overwhelming sense of being surrounded by sound, the low frequencies of Haenyeo or Seawomen by Mikhail Karikis filling the room entirely.
Four channels of surround sound create a sense of space and place, and cushions on the floor seem inviting, yet viewers including myself remain standing. During my second visit to Seawomen, however, I aim for a different experience and sit alone on the gallery floor. By allowing yourself this sense of intimacy, the work encourages deep listening. I did not have to make an effort to hear – everything was peacefully quiet as though I was listening for the first time. The surround sound opened up a false perception and slight discomfort as I constantly kept turning my head, wondering what the disturbance noise was behind me; however I was alone.
‘Sound can be sectioned, taken away and used as a separate art form [which is] borrowed from language and experience in the theatre’. (Sam Belinfante, opening speech)
Hannah Richards’ Thunder, offers an aesthetic aspect of sound and vision as the latter is open to personal perception. Being positively warned about this piece as an unstructured ‘loud explosive happening every now and then’ by Bryan Biggs, and unaware of the time interval of the sound, the piece situated on the wall reads;
A recording of a single clap of thunder was stretched in length from 8 seconds to 7 minutes. The resulting sound was transcribed into musical score for 6 instruments. The musical score was performed, recorded and then reduced to 8 seconds…
(Hannah Richards, Thunder, 2005)
The idea of time in art becomes a side effect here due to the levels of interactivity within the gallery spaces. Interacting with Lina Lapelyte’s O, is one of my favourites; when wearing headphones, the audio playing seems like live sound from the gallery space, as though you’re listening to live aspects of real time accompanied by the sight of a spinning record, paradoxically moving in its own time.
Lastly, an ‘acoustic tomb’, by artist Harroon Mirza, who is a personal favourite of mine, invites one to sit, thereby allowing the listener to create their own durational work of art out of the materials in the gallery space. I sit on the rock situated under a hovering anechoic chamber with the idea of complete silence. The voices on the outside become drowned out as I sit in ‘quietude’ (as opposed to silence), with the state of stillness and quietness accessible with the space, creating and forcing an escape from the noise of normality.
Together with sight, looking up eyes wide open, there is only complete darkness. Sight is not visible.
Words by Leanne Cunningham
Lessons in Posing Subjects, curated by Devrim Bayar, presents over 250 Polaroid photographs by Robert Heinecken, including sketchbooks and magazine cuttings. It examines a pivotal point in Heinecken’s career between 1972 and 1982, a time when he was using an SX70 Polaroid camera, (‘the bedroom camera’ as Heinecken describes) a tool which enabled artists and photographers to instantly see their photographs after capturing their own private lives without having to worry about the third person; this allowed the experimentation of something new, as it was the first camera to produce instant colour prints. Heinecken was seduced by this tool and so subverted it.
Attending the preview night offered me the opportunity to speak to Curator Devrim Bayar herself in order to explain the concept of the presented works in a more refined approach, providing me with a little background information about the artist himself.
“Heineken is considered a major figure in post-war American Photography. Although his work is not known entirely, and Lessons In Posing Subjects does not present his entire career, it holds an important aspect within his career. He was interested in photography, however, never actually using a camera up until the SX70, called himself a ‘Para – photographer’, [an artist using images for their practice] but not using a camera and simply exploring the nature of photography and the ideas through a variety of techniques including sculpture, video, printmaking, and collage, exploring both pop and conceptual art. The images presented are really close to us – are we who we are or who we want to portray?”
Gallery 1 & 2 present a selection of photographs accompanied by typed text. Full of humour, the text removes any hint of a provocative nature from the images; ‘In this enlightened era, fewer and fewer subjects are posed utilizing the bra and / or underpants’.
Gallery 2 also presents the series The Hite / Hustler Fashion Beaver Hunt (presenting here the winners of the ‘First Annual Blind Beaver Hunt’ for all those amateur, erotic photographers expressing dreams along with images of each female individual). The series de-contextualises images from catalogues and pornographic magazine ‘Hustler’, exploring themes of sexuality, consumerism and stereotypical imagery; women as ‘subject’, in my opinion subjected to female exploitation. Here, females are conveyed as objects for viewing gratification; however, Heinecken removes the women-at-view as sex symbols to a certain extent due to the destruction of the original image.
Expressing the relationship between media and art, the use of sex to sell ‘everything to everyone’, is presented through humor and tease, in a way which he may feel is feminist. I felt strongly about female provocativeness for gratification before reading the text, when I discovered that the images derive in a variety of ways from mass media of things that exist in nature – the mass media being nature.
Gallery 3 presents the artist book He / She (1980), and a personal favorite of mine which includes Heinecken’s first tests using the Polaroid SX70 combined with handwritten dialogues between man and woman which plays with fiction and reality with an interest in how gender is represented, along with the secret aspects of a Polaroid between Heinecken and his partner which creates a gender powered conversation consisting of a sarcastic yet close conversation, a conversation where the private becomes public;
She – My name in Mary
He – Hi
She – Is someone taking care of you whilst you’re here?
He – What do you mean
She – I enjoyed your lecture – can you leave now?
He – I suppose so, as soon as I have my slides
She – I have them
He / She Series 1980 (conversations about art and artists)
However the texts presented do not explain the images; we are encouraged to determine our own interpretation of the actual text, as what is hidden becomes truer than what is visible…
He – Did you enjoy the exhibition
She – It’s strange; every time you walk into a room magic happens. They all put you on a pedestal…. How does it feel to make art?
He – I think of it being similar to an orgasm
 Lessons for Posing Subjects, Lingerie (Erogenous Zones)
 Lessons in Posing Subjects, Open Eye Gallery Press Release 2014
Words by Leanne Cunningham
Being acutely aware of the innovate and pervasive nature of sound, the feeling that sound creates, the power and effect it has on any given space / perspective, I review this exhibition with high levels of anticipation. A previous insight to the work of Ian Costabile enabled me to make the connections to his influences as referenced within his texts. Minimalist music and Drone Music; ‘La Monte Young’s Composition No.7’ with the simple instructions, ‘To be held for a very long time’ for example, and Yves Klein’s ‘Monotive Symphony’ – highly familiar pieces to me.
Static Music is presented as an art of sounds governed by time as music needs time in order to exist, music becoming an art of time – a frozen time with no possibility for change, sound decay creating an innovative experience. The room is divided up into enclosed sections with an unawareness of where the sounds are being generated from.
As I enter The Gallery, hidden and tucked away off the main roads, I am overwhelmed by the sound generating from the corner of the room; the oscillation of the fan creating a faint gentle hum which sets the scene, the latter becoming the core of the exhibition, the favorite of Costabile – ‘Bamboo Heaven’.
Consisting of eight ethnic bamboo flutes from eight places of the world (Indonesia, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Thailand, Morocco and Piru), the musical sculpture Bamboo Heaven has been composed in order to suit the collection of bamboo flutes. The sounds presented become of more importance than the visual aspect, however, a creation of an environment evolves, in order to be explored by the viewer. As several sounds merge together, the formation of an orchestration of sounds equally contribute to musical sculpture, the latter performing an endless sonority built up of major 2nd, 5th and 4ths. The ambience of great vibration and relaxation within a musical interval of a major second exposes the piece, controlled by the air generation from the fan.
Within are 32 continuous sounds with every sound appearing different as wherever situated, the sounds never appear to be the same. Close up – high pitched frequencies dominate the piece alone, however, from a distance the sounds are perceived equally, resonating around the room creating a selective approach as to what is wished to be heard. Time allowing choice, space allowing access and together, both space and time have significant effect on the piece as a whole. Musical time and clock time both become lost.
Collage No.1 is a musical painting. Sounds cross through the monochromatic black canvas creating a unique ambience, utilizing recorded sounds in order to create a vertical scenario – ‘a simulacrum of a forest auditory panorama’. With eight sounds divided around the canvas (fog, birds, cicadas, running water, and harmonic sounds), this is the first piece of Costabile’s proposed sequences of similar musical collages. The blackness creates an ambiguous, innovating vision that invites the listener to an intimate experience that requires deep listening.
Across the room from Collage No.1 is Earphones, an art installation and musical composition consisting of 180 earphone speakers. Earphones would have been a favourite of Constabile’s if it wasn’t for the difficult installation, ‘Organised sounds can be called music with the power to provoke an aesthetic experience, with sounds continuously resonating’. Concerning the sonority achieved, it produces three major chords. The sonority changes while listeners explore the piece, with ‘the verticality of music forming an innovative concept’.
The final piece, Binaural String Quartet is a music composition for recorded sounds and stereo speakers; 4 movements from 4 listening posts, programmed to play endlessly allowing the listener to stop listening at any given time creating an intimate experience as only one listener is enabled to hear. The piece ends when the lister leaves the sound journey without physically leaving the room.
Words by Leanne Cunningham
Whilst making my way to see the John Moores Painting Prize 2014, I am stopped in my tracks – situated behind the tall black curtain in the centre of the room, is something generating noise. I can hear the sounds of a city; traffic, conversation, movement, all accompanied by music. Unaware of what is creating these sounds, or where the mystery place being depicted is, I read the information presented before entering. This is Michael Nyman’s newest piece of work, and being a great fan his, I enter the space elated and curious.
Michael Nyman’s new creation is a film work for Liverpool Biennial 2014 entitled Aztecs in Liverpool. The two-screen video installation includes footage collected by Nyman over the past twenty years in his adopted home, Mexico. The title refers to one of the Aztec codices, the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, which is where the title of this work derives from. The Codex, states the exhibition text, is an example of a tonalamatl – books of days and destinies, which have been ‘arranged in accordance with the 260-day Aztec astrological count’, introducing life, time and motion into the world.
Aztecs in Liverpool (60’) consists of 7 individual films entitled Piano Moves, Slow Birth Slow Death, Fountains of Desire, Under The Shadow Of The Tortilla, Mexico City Walkers, From The Wedding To The Ex Voto, and The Photographer And The Photographer.
As I enter the darkened gallery space, I see children playing in the fountain under The Monument to the Revolution, located in Republic Square, which explains the title: Fountains Of Desire. As I watch, the powerful bass of the music pervades throughout the room, instantly reminding me of my recent visit to Mexico City. Hums of slightly varying tones reverberate gently as the moving imagery on screen dances in slow motion, presenting the ‘delighted’ and ‘unexpected’ (Nyman, 2014) discovery of the book (Codex Fejérváry-Mayer) at the World Museum in 2013.
Observational episodes through the medium of film present Nyman’s years in Mexico, as he visually portrays his nostalgia. Time, image and music together explore the Mexican culture using a visual, non verbal language. The portrayal of physical time connects to a musical time – with a sense of something becoming lost in the process as the two cross accordingly. Music and image appear in sync, however, images are played chronologically, whilst the musical aspects seem out of time. As dissonant chords and clusters of piano notes clash, the latter creates a suggested narrative for the viewer as a physical time reference, enabling the unstructured musical timing to speak of Nyman’s past experiences within the given gallery space – a possible longing / confusion of reminiscence?
The busy Mexican streets are presented at a stand-still, due to the way the camera is positioned, enabling only one viewing aspect as the camera is sternly focussed on a single point. Accompanied by various sounds drowning and returning in waves, field recordings dominate the soundtrack. Noises that do not belong within the visual aspect of the piece contribute beautifully to the film externally, as a structured story evolves creating a delightful experience.
Michael Nyman’s Aztecs in Liverpool will be on display at the Walker Art Gallery until 26 October, 2014.